By Nathan Shachar
July 8, 2016
Whatever dividends the fresh Turkish-Israeli rapprochement will bring, it reveals something fundamental about the new Middle East: the number of unknown variables in this ever less predictable environment is steadily growing, and even the most arrogant and unrepentant leaders will have to eat crow from time to time in order to salvage their national interests. Leaders who stand by their words and their principles will be severely handicapped.
Metin Gürcan in t24 writes the ISIS needs Turkey. ISIS has not yet declared Turkey a war zone. While ISIS is steadily losing ground in Syria and Iraq, Turkey is a centre for it in terms of logistics and finance. I see that the Turkey strategy of ISIS has four different levels: First, it aims to create a division between on the one hand Sunnis who become more Salafist and others, by carrying out acts of violence that increase the already significant tension along the sectarian, ethnic and political fault lines in Turkey. Second, it seeks to ensure that Turkey does not become an active member of the global anti-ISIS coalition by attacking foreigners in Turkey. Third, it seeks to radicalize the Islamist youth in Turkey that has become increasingly alienated from the traditional Islamic structures. Fourth, it will encourage the ideologically radicalized to take radical action, exporting the extremist Salafist groups that it has raised in the Turkish pool abroad. In fact, we can see that ISIS is very good at following the evolution of political Islam in Turkey, in recognizing that it can steal a role in the wake of the power struggle between the AKP and the Gülen fraternity, and as a result of the fact that traditional Turkish Islamism has fared so badly in its encounter with capitalism: this is something that increases the popularity of jihadist Salafist movements among increasingly alienated young Islamists in Turkey.
Nuray Mert in Cumhuriyet foresees that Turkey’s agreement with Russia could have some dire consequences. It is going to be difficult to explain the agreement to the Chechens and Dagestanis who used to get support in Turkey for their fight against Russia. Such people, jihadists, don’t resemble the ordinary AKP voters; they will not necessarily think that the Turkish government knows best, and passively accept its change of course. The agreement with Israel is another story. It is obvious that the reason behind it is that both countries want to counter-balance Iran in the region. Such an alliance is not promising the region peace, but only more sectarian tension, while jeopardizing the Turkish-Iranian ties. Lastly, the promise of citizenship offered by the president to the Syrian refugees in Turkey: this promises to become one of the major problems with regard to the internal political balance in Turkey as a result of the Syrian war. We all know that the issue is an instrument for the policies of Sunnification and that is going to increase the Alevi-Sunni tension in Turkey. Moreover, another dimension of the issue (of Turkish citizenship for Syrians) is related to the Kurdish-Arab balance. All of this demonstrates that the governing mentality refuses to draw any conclusions from what is happening in our country and in our region, and continues to play with (sectarian) fires.
Fatih Yaşlı in Birgün writes that the alliance between the supposed “vanguard of secularism” – the military – and political Islam, which historically was motivated by a shared desire to beat the left, has a long pedigree. The military entered into a pragmatic relationship with the political representatives of religion during the Cold War. One example was when the military after the coup in 1971 asked Necmettin Erbakan to return from his exile in Switzerland to found a new Islamist party. Yet for many years, the Islamists accused – not the military as an institution, but its top echelon – of being alien to the national culture and of being westernized. But this relation has now evolved. There is now a military that the Islamists can much easier embrace; the military is no longer viewed as being alien to “national values,” and is seen as the “army of the nation.” The fight against the PKK has deepened the relationship between Islamism and the military. We have now a “militarist Islam” that has appropriated the army and which is supporting the war. And the military has also changed, and is continuing to change, which presents us with an “Islamic militarism.” It is claimed that the lower echelons of the officers’ corps is becoming dominated by religious officers. It is also claimed that there is a similar process ongoing among the higher echelons, albeit less so. The one area that symbolizes the confluence of “militarist Islam” and “Islamic militarism” is the “national defense industry.” The character of the regime and its political economy was expressed in the fact that the president’s new son-in-law hails from one of the important families of this sector, and was underlined by the fact that the chief of the general staff acted wedding witness. That was a tremendous demonstration of the zeitgeist.
Levent Gültekin in Diken writes that many people that he has met recently all wonder why intellectuals, businessmen, the “reasonable people” of the country don’t come together to lead a societal opposition. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is the widespread expectation that something is going to happen, which will change the course of the country, and which will lead to the departure of Erdoğan. Many people refrain from sticking out their necks because they assume that Erdoğan is anyway going to run into the wall someday. The second reason is that no really strong and influential class of democratic intellectuals has formed in this country. The third, and the most important reason, is that the opposition is mostly made up of leftists and liberals. The right -- the nationalists-conservatives-Islamists -- is beholden to the government. Some think opposing it would only serve the interests of the PKK, others see it as damaging the “government of the pious.” Thus, the mission to bring life to societal opposition mostly falls on leftist and liberal intellectuals. But the left is itself torn apart by long-standing divisions.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.